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4.6 out of 5 stars
The Nazis: A Warning From History
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on 18 April 2011
This is a well written, highly informative and deeply interesting book. Readers will gain a clear understanding of how badly not only the jews, but all Europe's peoples suffered during the dark days of WWII. As with most of these publications however, there are major ommisions which unbalance the whole way in which we today look back on those tragic events of 70/80 years ago. My major criticism is the repeated implication that the "Nazi quest for Lebensraum" was inherently evil. The truth is that like Napoleon before them and the The EEC/EU after them, Hitler's Nazis intended/hoped to unify Europe, partly in order to prevent future inter-European conflicts and partly to increase Europe's military/diplomatic power. Remembering that in the 1930's Great Britain, France, the USSR, Holland, Belgium, Italy and even Spain were still first class industrial powers controlling huge tracts of Asia, Africa and the Americas, the potential strength of a united Europe at that time was truly world-dominating BUT; those innumerable and sometimes petty nation-states into which the continent was (and still is) split were playing the same divisive role in Europe as the Chinese warlords played in China prior to Mao's unification.

The horrific casualties of WWI had already shown however, that even Europe's weakest 'nation states' were much better armed and far more deeply entrenched in power than even the most powerful Chinese warlord; thus Hitler's Nazis failed abysmally, inflicting immeasurable misery and possibly fatal damage to old Europe's cultural heritage in the process. By contrast, Chairman Mao defeated the reactionary clique who opposed his unification of China and is now remembered by many as the greatest statesman of the 20'th Century, while the united 'Red' China he created has since enjoyed the most rapid economic/industrial and political growth of any nation in recorded history; is now fast overtaking America(The last great power amidst a still disunited West.) and is seemingly destined to become the first Asian super-power in five centuries.

World War Two ended almost seventy years ago and modern Europe would be virtually unrecognisable to the young soldiers who fought both for and against 'Der Fuhrer' so long ago. I suggest that rather than reinforcing the old wartime propaganda of Hitler as a 'Devil Incarnate' who unleashed armies of sadistic fiends intent only on massacre; we should at least try to understand the deeper truth behind the clash of ideologies and diplomatic failures which led to WWII and the wreck of the Western World. In my opinion Lawrence Rees has taken the easier option and produced yet another Politically Correct diatribe 'warning' of the evils of Nazism; but does he really think anyone need's that warning? The problems facing today's Europe may be equally serious, but they are very different indeed to those of almost a century ago.
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on 17 July 2012
Why are we not able to buy this in a 21st century way? Getting a paper copy in Australia is far too expensive. I'll just have to wait for the kindle version.
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on 10 January 2009
I have high praise for Laurence Rees' excellent books on Auschwitz and his analysis of how war and the individual interact in "Their Darkest Hour". "The Nazis" meets the same standard, compressing the vast amount of available information into an accessible length, without sacrificing important detail. It is a fascinating read, which both demonstrates how easy it can be for totalitarians to establish themselves, if the time is ripe and also blows away some of the myths about how the Nazis operated. The idea that the Nazi state was fanatically well ordered and planned is false for example: there was no "top down" system of bureaucracy, instead Hitler would issue edicts along the lines of "I want Germany to be a racially pure state" and then let everyone else work out what that meant. There was tremendous waste and duplicated effort as the Fuhrer liked to assign tasks to several departments and then let them fight it out to see whose system would come out on top. Bit like the NHS then. But saddest of all is Rees' discovery that the Gestapo, long depicted as having agents and spies on every street corner, were in fact seriously undermanned and depended on the denouncements of ordinary Germans to do their "job". In that way, the Nazi system seems to have exactly mirrored Stalin's Russia, where you could easily find yourself freezing in Siberia if your neighbour took a fancy to your slightly bigger apartment.

So what warning should we take from this intelligent and balanced analysis? I think we all have to draw our own conclusions, but for the record the message I took is that while the unfairness of the Versailles Treaty, the depression of the thirties might have made the rise of the Nazis inevitable, what sustained it and made the unthinkable possible was the mundane human desire to conform, to go along with the prevailing opinion, and that this is often the biggest enemy we face.
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on 10 December 2015
Ripped to pieces on sites such as codoh dot com, inconvenienthistory dot com and holocausthandbooks dot com
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on 22 January 2000
I couldn't disagree more strongly with the previous reviewer. It's only by challenging the interviewees that Rees gains the insights this book is full of. The series this book is based on won a BAFTA - and that gives an idea of the quality of the research. I really enjoyed it.
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on 22 February 1999
There are a lot of superb books about the Second World War - this isn't one of them although it is ok. It is partly redeamed by some stunning photographs throughout, some modern, some archive. The photograph on the cover is simply superb.
The text is factual and informative and presented in a reasonably interesting manner. Where this book really falls down though is in the interviews several of which are incuded in transcripted format. The tone adopted in the interviews is accusatory and he quickly annoys his subjects who then refuse to take any further part. This is a tragedy as he is denying history several important witnesses.
Throughout the book the author presents the facts and condems his subjects. This becomes very annoying as if the facts are presented clearly one can easily draw ones own conclusions. It is unnesersary to repeatedly describe the Nazis as monsters and murderers (however accuratly) if there deeds are documented properly.
It is easy to present the facts 50 years after the event and accuse people. It would be much harder to try to understand war torn Europe wear life and death come very cheap. It is a shame that the author has not chosen the latter route as it might have made more interesting reading.
Still - nice pictures.
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on 17 September 2014
This book is genuinely enlightening. It helps you see the tragedy of Germany in the 1930s through a different lens and to understand how it developed. Do you enjoy books like this - it's difficult to say but it's a good read, it increased my understanding and (in some ways) changed me.

I would recommend it for those reasons alone. Does it labour the horrors of the nazis on the East a bit, possibly, but they did happen and to us in the safe and civilised west they only seem real if laboured.

Read this book if you need to understand Nazism or if you aren't aware of the realities of the Eastern war, it reads well.
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on 23 December 2009
This is not an "easy" book to read, not because of the prose, it is well written and well researched with a logical layout. It is not an easy read because it offers some disturbing insights into what is possible when we fail to see others as normal or of equal worth. It is a true warning from history and hopefully a lesson we will all learn before much longer. I would recommend this book and the TV series (if you come across it) to all. The Nazis were an extreme example of a chilling mind set that still exists today, the litany of demonisation and depersonalisation of enemies to justify horror is unfortunately still with us, only the scale and the names of the victims are different.
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on 25 September 2017
Basically the television series with words,not bad but have read better Mr Rees commits the basic flaw of book writing by letting his own opinions and judgments colour the story,he should leave that to the reader.
Of course what the Nazis did in Occupied Eastern Europe was appalling (as what the Russians did) when they invaded Germany.
Does convey the sheer waste that war brings .
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on 5 August 2017
Gives an inciteful view into the rise and fall of the Nazis.
Also how all layers of society were involved both in Germany and the occupied territories
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